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Customer Relationship Management Edition
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Q&A: Usability Expert Arin Bhowmick Discusses Sales-Optimized User Experience in Oracle Fusion CRM

As the senior manager of user experience for Oracle Fusion Customer Relationship Management, Arin Bhowmick has led a major campaign to research, design, and implement a next-generation user experience (UX). His goal: a UX that "incents salespeople by making their own jobs easier—and keeps them focused on selling—even as they capture the information management needs."

We sat down with Bhowmick to learn more about his multiyear mission to reengineer the sales user experience from the ground up.

Q. Why are companies more focused than ever on increasing sales force productivity?
A. In today's volatile economic environment, sales teams are facing more competition than ever. At the same time, executives are keeping a close eye on quarterly sales results, and sales teams are under the gun to meet their numbers. And of course, sales managers are being asked to produce more with fewer resources. The solution to all these challenges lies in increasing productivity—and keeping sales reps focused on selling.

Q. Why is an effective UX key to increasing productivity?
A. Sales reps want to spend as much as time as possible with customers, pitching deals and getting their revenue up. However, managers are asking for more and more reporting.

Sales reps also regularly report that their systems don't complement their style of work and don't help them work faster. Sometimes, they have to enter the same data over and over or the user interface is so complex that they need IT help to navigate it. The problem is, if reps find a system difficult to use, they are less likely to adopt it.

Q. What kind of research did Oracle conduct in designing the UX of Oracle Fusion CRM?
A. Basically, we started from the ground up. We spent two years researching the tasks and work habits of sales professionals to create a true, user-centered design, even before a single line of code was written. Just as important, we continued research and design iterations throughout the entire product lifecycle, from gathering and vetting end user requirements to product usability validations.

We conducted more than 100 discrete user research and validation activities. Based on the data captured, we were able to create mental models, or mind-maps, of how sales reps approached tasks, and then used cluster and correlation analysis to come up with the best solutions and workflows.

We also knew mobile was vital, so we followed reps in the field across multiple industries and even continents. We observed what devices they use, what tasks they complete and in what sequence, and where they get stuck in the process.

Q. What are some specific ways Oracle Fusion CRM increases sales productivity?
A. First, we adhered to "design patterns"—that is, reusable user experiences that provide a very consistent user interface throughout the system for similar use cases. Consistency is extremely important for both adoption and productivity.

Next, we made sure users could complete all necessary steps in the context of a particular task. We wanted all information and related actions accessible on a single page.

Because salespeople work in so many different environments—laptops, desktops, and mobile devices—we also made sure that the UX for each environment was optimized.

We also learned that it was very important for reps to be able to personalize their UX according to their own habits and personalities. So we enabled them to create their own dashboards, manipulate tables, etc., simply by dragging and dropping.

Finally, we made small but very important improvements, such as more-seamless integration with Microsoft Outlook, easier navigation between records, autosuggest in search fields, default data values in many fields, guided processes, and automatic capture of context and time when logging contact interactions.

Q. How does Oracle Fusion CRM embed analytics into the sales process?
A. Embedded analytics was key to our design process from the very beginning. For example, Oracle Fusion Sales Predictor can automatically provide sales recommendations in context and targeted to a particular customer.

Just as important, we don't just give them a graph or pie chart. We also let reps instantly see the rationale behind a particular prediction. And whether the intelligence involves a graph, numbers, or text, we make sure information is presented in the most interpretable way, based on the way people really work.

Q. What differentiates Oracle's approach to UX from key competitors, such as Salesforce.com?
A. Unlike our competitors, we redesigned the user experience from the ground up. We did deep research, and because we weren't tied to any legacy products, we were free to make the most of it. That includes integrating the latest innovations in the best of consumer Web 2.0 and social media.

Learn more about Oracle's complete user experience.

Learn more about Oracle Fusion CRM applications.
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